Effective Strength Training for Cyclists

Strength training is an oft-overlooked super-supplement for cyclists. It develops the power used for sprints and muscling over hilly terrain. It fends off the muscle fatigue you feel at the end of a long ride. Strength training exercises with weights promote bone density, which can be a problem with the non-weight-bearing nature of riding a bike. And it helps neutralize muscle imbalances that can develop from the fixed position of cycling.

Before you get too concerned about bulking up or losing flexibility, the good news is that strength training for cycling is different from traditional weight lifting. The goal is to integrate this strength work into your bike training to make you a better, stronger rider, not a bodybuilder. As such, you can do most of the moves detailed below at home without weights in 30 minutes or so, 2-3 times a week. 

Don’t worry; you can still do your hard cycling intervals since resistance training focuses on muscles, not your cardiovascular system. For help adding a strength routine to your cycling program, you can enlist a coach such as Humango’s AI coaching app. It’ll integrate strength sessions into a weekly program, adjusting your cycling workouts to build off the strength work instead of leaving you to guess when you should do it.

Basic Stability Program

Cyclists need a powerful platform to push against as they drive the pedals through the pedal stroke. That platform is your core. So, the stronger your core, the harder you can ride. Fortunately, it doesn’t take squats and deadlifts with heavy weights to accomplish this. Bodyweight exercises will offer impressive gains, especially if you’re starting from zero. 

Back expert Stuart McGill, PhD, came up with three simple core exercises to shore up core stability in people with back pain, and they work for cyclists, as well. You can also complete one rep of each exercise as part of your daily warm-up.

Modified Curl-Up:

  1. Lie on your back and bend one knee while extending the other.
  2. With your hands underneath your lower back and your back in a neutral position, brace your abdomen, then lift your head, shoulders, and chest. Avoid tilting your head back or tucking in your chin.
  3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then lower your upper body back down slowly to the floor. Repeat with the opposite leg bent and the other leg extended. That completes one rep. Work up to completing 3-4.

Side Plank:

  1. Lie on your left side, with your left elbow under your shoulder, forearm on the ground, and left hand on your hip.
  2. Keep your legs straight with your feet stacked on top of each other.
  3. Without twisting or leaning forward, lift your hips off the floor and hold your body straight for 10 seconds, then slowly drop to the floor. 
  4. Repeat on your right side to complete one rep. Work up to complete 3-5 reps.

Bird Dog:

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. 
  2. Raise your right arm straight forward and your left leg straight back while keeping your spine neutral (no twisting).
  3. Once the arm and leg are fully extended, hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Lower the arm and leg and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Work up to complete 3-5 reps.

Power Moves

The following exercises target the key cycling muscles — quads, glutes, and hamstrings — with help from your core to keep you stable (stability again!). Remember, you don’t need to win these strength sessions by busting out your personal best in reps or weights. You want to complete each exercise with enough left in the tank to complete no more than two more reps. Two caveats, though. First, do a warm-up set of each exercise with no weights. Second, if you feel your form is not perfect due to muscle fatigue, stop and try again the next workout. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself.


  1. Take a step back. Brace your torso and lower your body with your torso upright, hands by your sides. Make sure your forward knee doesn’t lean over your toes. Slowly press yourself back upright when your forward leg reaches a 90-degree bend.  
  2. Switch legs and repeat.
  3. Start with 10-12 reps of each leg, working up to 3-4 sets.
  4. Keep progressing by holding a light dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.

Single-Leg Deadlifts

  1. From a standing position, slowly bend forward from your waist, keeping your back straight, while you lift one of your legs straight behind you simultaneously.
  2. Your planted leg should be slightly bent, and you should feel the tension in your glute and hamstring muscles, not your back.
  3. Once your torso is level with the ground, slowly raise it back up, focusing on your glutes to do the work, not your back.
  4. Repeat with the other leg to complete one rep. Repeat for 8-10 reps. Work up to 3-4 sets.
  5. As you grow stronger, add light dumbbells or kettlebells to each hand.

Front Squats

  1. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, or weight plate at chest height with both hands.
  2. Slowly lower your body, keeping your torso as upright as possible. Stop when your legs reach a 90-degree angle.
  3. Quickly raise yourself to standing.
  4. Repeat for 10-12 reps and 3-4 sets.

Whether you’re a strength training rookie or a seasoned cyclist who’s rediscovering the benefits of basic resistance training, incorporating these simple but effective strength exercises into your training routine will help you build a stronger engine capable of powering your cycling performance to the next level.


Take It Outside! Winter Training Tips for Endurance Athletes

We get it. It’s hard to motivate yourself to train through cold and dark days. You have to pull on all your winter running gear for even a short run. If you’re a cyclist, you need even more gear, especially if it’s raining. But when you brave the chilly temps, you get a fitness boost and a mood boost, as well. Instead of hiding from winter, own it. Consistency is the number one, most effective pathway to running, cycling, or doing anything faster year in and year out. Humango’s training app will help you maintain this consistency by designing and managing a winter training plan that builds you up for the spring. Below, we’ve shared our favorite tips for getting the most out of winter.

Winter Running & Winter Cycling

Traditional off-season endurance training for runners and cyclists usually features slow miles and long distances. It doesn’t have to be that way. Shorter, intense workouts can generate similar adaptations — and more body heat to keep you warm. These aren’t necessarily all-out sprint workouts. Instead, they involve several multi-minute race-pace intervals spread over an hour or so. With Humango, you can plug in the number of days and hours a week you have available to train and let Hugo, your AI-powered digital coach, do the rest.

Winter is the perfect time to address your weaknesses. If you regularly slow to a walk on hills, use this time to do hill repeats to build more power. Is running downhill problematic on your knees and back? Hit the weight room and shore up your stabilizer muscles and tendons to better handle the impact. Those weight-room workouts count toward your consistency. Plug in strength days into Humango, and let it adjust your cardio workouts to account for strength work. 

Your weakness can even come from running the same routes repeatedly, so much so that your body’s been trained to run them efficiently. This approach is great for training but not for race day, where the course is unfamiliar. So, use your winter training sessions to explore new routes. 

While we all adapt to and deal with chilly weather differently, air temperature and humidity require special attention. First, cold air is usually drier air, and as such, it sucks moisture out of our bodies with every breath. So work to consciously keep yourself hydrated, even if you don’t feel cold. Second, it takes practice to pull off max efforts in sub-freezing temperatures. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow until you figure out what works for you:

  • If above freezing (32°F), max efforts are okay on a winter run or ride. 
  • Between 22°- 32° F, steady-state intervals are ideal. Steady-state translates to the pace you can sustain for an hour max.
  • Below 22° F, stick to a conversational pace.

Cross Training for Runners & Cyclists

Cross-training is a fantastic way to maintain your fitness consistency. Plus, it gives you a mental break from your core sport, mixes up the environment, and speeds your development by providing something new to learn. Triathletes can substitute Nordic skiing for their long weekend rides. Live near a ski hill? See if they’ll let you climb the ski hill on alpine skis or snowshoes as a substitute for hill repeats. In a snow-free region? Cyclists can sub in mountain biking to keep their cycling legs in shape while honing their bike handling skills on the trails. Runners can try swimming or cycling to give their bones and tendons a break from the pounding.

Weight training will work to correct any muscle imbalances from all those months on the bike or running with no upper-body conditioning. Free weight lifts will help all athletes strengthen their core, which will translate into being able to apply more force to a stride or pedal stroke. For cyclists, weight training will improve bone density lost from all those days on the bike.

Winter 101:
Overdressing is a common mistake for many winter outdoor athletes. If you’re going on a run, it’s best to start moderately uncomfortable in terms of clothing so you don’t end up with a sweat-soaked top that turns freezing once you stop. You’ll heat up fast once you start moving. The same goes for cyclists, although you may want to wear a jacket to start a ride. You can stuff it in a jersey pocket once you warm up. You’ll also want that jacket if your route includes long, fast downhill stretches.

When regulating your body temperature, take care of your extremities first: bundle your feet in warm socks or cycling booties, pull on gloves, and then cover your head. Still cold? Pull on a warmer top or jacket. Still feeling the chill? Time for leggings. If you start to sweat, take your gloves off before your jacket. The hands feature a massive surface area of skin criss-crossed with blood vessels (aka heat) close to the skin’s surface. Exposing your hands will help you cool off faster than taking off your jacket. 

When To Take It Inside

Let’s face it, it can be downright dangerous to train outside in the winter. A blizzard, cold driving rain, or sub-zero temps are good reasons to play it safe and train indoors. When you do, use the opportunity to do a short, sub-one-hour set of max intervals on the treadmill or indoor bike trainer. With Humango’s AI app, changing your workout on the fly is easy. Log your indoor workout data in the app, and it’ll adjust your successive workouts accordingly, scheduling the appropriate recovery time and modifications to your workouts so you don’t burn out.

In the end, the goal is to keep moving and build fitness through the winter. And when the weather plays nice and makes it possible to enjoy winter outdoors, even better.


8 Time-Saving Tips for Triathlon Training

At its absolute most basic, triathlon training breaks down into a repeated cycle of swim, bike, and run workouts, in that order, twice a week. That’s it. This simple approach works for any of the triathlon distances. You can train as little as 45 minutes a day for six days and likely finish a sprint distance triathlon. For an Olympic distance triathlon, setting aside 7-8 hours a week can do the job. Sounds easy enough, right? It is — until life gets in the way, the weather turns foul, or a last-minute business trip ruins your plan. Fortunately, some workarounds and hacks can get you back on track. We listed our eight favorites below. Use them as needed to keep your triathlon training plan on track during a hectic period or to stay in tri shape between events.

Tip #1: Consistency matters more than long workouts.

Since triathlon requires you to train in three different sports, practicing all three will yield a bigger payoff on race day. Rather than skipping three days and trying to make it up on the weekend with a long bike ride followed by a run, it’s better to spend even 30 minutes a day on one sport twice a week. If you travel and have to use a treadmill or exercise bike in the hotel gym, do it. Your goal is to train six days a week, even if some of your sessions are short.

Tip #2: Prioritize high-intensity sessions over endurance ones.

High-intensity interval training builds speed, strength, and mental toughness. It also provides a bigger fitness payoff than long rides or runs for the amount of time invested. Because of this, you want to skip your longer endurance rides and runs if you skip anything. In short, the harder the workout looks on your plan, the more critical it is to your triathlon fitness. For shorter triathlons, that means make your high intensity workouts the priority. For longer Ironman distance races, those long-distance rides and runs take precedence.  Come race day, you’ll be glad you did them.

Tip #3: Prioritize hard days on the bike over hard runs.

Biking at full throttle throughout your training — or even at race pace — will be easier on your joints than on a run. The goal is to develop your cardiovascular capacity and strength, and cycling is a perfect low-impact way to do it. Plus, the bike makes up more than 50% of a triathlon. It makes sense to prioritize cycling time and work on the bike.

Tip #4: Proficient swimming is okay.

Triathletes can spend countless hours perfecting their swimming stroke and logging hours and hours in the pool or lake to become strong, efficient swimmers. But the swim leg is only 10% of a triathlon. To save time, work to become proficient at swimming, not trying to become Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledeky. Your bike and run legs will determine how well your race goes, not the swim. So, use your swim training to find efficiency in your swim stroke. Learning how to save energy in the swim will help you start the bike leg feeling as fresh as possible. This workout will also rest your joints from the impact of your runs and to help you recover from those high-intensity bike workouts above.

Tip #5: Strength train to accelerate power gains.

A 30-minute full-body strength circuit, 1-2 times a week, targeting your back, shoulders, arms, core, glutes, and legs, will help you in all sports because resistance training fatigues your muscles faster than the pool, bike, or run. Strength training will also strengthen your core, improving stability and creating a foundation for a powerful swimming stroke, pedal stroke, and foot strike. Strength training is especially helpful at the start of a training schedule to prepare your muscles and joints for the work ahead. As you get closer to race day, you can drop the strength training and devote those workouts to your long rides and runs.

Tip #6: Use brick days to organize and practice your T2 transition.

Brick workouts, where a run workout immediately follows a bike workout, are excellent opportunities to dial in your T2 transition. Start by setting up your running gear, fluids, sports gels, bars, and other foods in advance. After finishing your ride, pull on your running gear as quickly as possible and head back out. Use these practice transitions to figure out what process works best for you. Some athletes grab a bite and down some fluids before changing. Some swap that order. Some find it better to eat and drink something in the closing minutes of their ride to set themselves up for the run. Others may find it better to eat and drink at the start of their run, taking it slow until they find their running legs. You’ll never know what works for you without practice.

Tip #7: Recover, recover, recover.

There are three keys to recovering smartly: Get plenty of good sleep. Take one day off each week with no workouts. Don’t complete two high-intensity, hard workouts in a row. Strategic recovery periods give your body time to build muscle, strengthen joints, and prepare you to work harder and longer. And the more consistently you can train harder, the stronger and faster you get.

Tip #8: Get a coach.

The ultimate hack to triathlon training is a coach. Humango’s AI coaching app was created to coach triathletes to their best performances. Whether you have four hours a week to train or 20 hours, it can design and manage a plan that fits your schedule and triathlon racing goals. Even better, it’ll schedule workouts that maximize your progress without overloading your body with more work than it can handle. Have to miss a workout or two? No problem. Humango will adjust your workouts to accommodate your life and then adjust the rest of your program to account for that missed work. When no workout is wasted, saving time is automatic. 


Optimize Periodization Training for Endurance Sports With AI

Periodization training has defined sports training since it was codified by the Russian Olympic coaches in the 1960s. In short, it features a progressive 2-6 week, period-by-period block of training that finishes with a rest period. An athlete repeats this schedule throughout the year, cycling through different fitness focuses (endurance, power, stamina, speed) depending on where they are in their training journey.

Figuring out what periodization plan works best for an athlete takes years, even decades of experience. And even then, the fine line between burnout or injury and falling short of one’s potential is always there. That’s where an AI-powered coach like Humango’s can step in. By leveraging sports coaching science and tracking your individual metabolism and availability, our app creates a customized training plan that propels your performance.

Periodization Training 101

Periodization works for three main reasons. First, it stops most athletes’ natural inclination to train moderately hard all the time. While that all-out approach can provide short-term boosts in fitness, speed, and power, it also leads to burnout and never allows an athlete to reach their true potential. They’re too exhausted to experience a full-power performance. And if they’re not careful, they injure their bodies from overuse since they never give themselves a chance to heal. 

A chance to heal leads to the second key benefit of periodization. It incorporates rest and recovery into each workout, training block, and training season. This time off is actually when the body adapts and grows stronger. When an athlete rests, mitochondria networks expand to move more blood through the muscles, protein synthesis goes to work to build stronger muscles, and neural pathways get a boost that translates into smoother, more efficient movement patterns.

The body needs to be “taught” what max effort or endurance feels like so it can adapt to the stress of that effort and be ready for it the next time. Because it’s prepared for it the next time, the body can then be pushed to a new max effort, which leads it to adapt to that new stress level. And so on, and so on in a progressive periodized cycle.

Third, over the course of a training program, periodization blocks will transition from longer, less intense workouts to shorter, high-intensity workouts and vice versa. For example, a marathoner might start her training with shorter, sprint-based workouts to build her speed, then transition to longer intervals that are run faster than her marathon pace. In the weeks leading up to the marathon, she’ll take that newly developed stamina to her long runs at race pace. Conversely, a runner training for a 10k race would start his training with longer, slower runs to build up a neuromuscular foundation that will be able to handle the progressively faster and shorter workouts leading up to the race.

The AI Advantage to Periodization Training

For a cyclist who wants to complete their first 100-mile century ride, a simple periodization training plan might go like this: 

  • Week 1: Ride 4 days a week with one long ride of 50 miles. 
  • Week 2: Ride 4 days a week with one long ride of 55 miles. 
  • Week 3: Ride 4 days a week with one long ride of 60 miles. 
  • Week 4: Ride 2 days a week for no more than 20-30 easy miles total.
  • Repeat the block, but add 10% more miles to each week. 

That 10% weekly increase in mileage is safe for most athletes — but it’s also arbitrary. A 20-year-old experienced athlete could have no problem increasing their workload by 12% each week. A former smoker who picked up triathlon at age 40 may struggle to keep up with a 5% increase in workload. This variable is what makes a coach so valuable. They can spot and tweak an athlete’s plan to better accommodate their current fitness level.

Humango’s AI coach can do that, using its intelligence to notice when someone needs an extra day off or maybe one less interval than planned so they can recover, grow stronger, and keep progressing. The same goes for the athlete who’s adapting ahead of schedule. Based on fatigue, resting heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and efficiency factor (EF), Humango can tweak a training block to ask more of the athlete because it knows they can handle it. As Humango gathers more and more training data on an individual, the smarter and more individualized the plan becomes. And the chances of pulling off a personal best increase along the way.